PHILADELPHIA - The Anaheim Ducks finally landed a second big centre to battle the rest of the Western Conference powers.
Disgruntled centre Ryan Kesler finally got his wish for a new hockey home.
Hours before the first round of the NHL draft Friday, the Vancouver Canucks — admittedly ready to re-tool after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008 — traded Kesler to the Ducks in exchange for forward Nick Bonino, defenceman Luca Sbisa and the 24th overall pick, which they used to select Soo Greyhounds forward Jared McCann.
The clubs also exchanged third-round draft choices, with Vancouver receiving the No. 85 selection this year and Anaheim receiving the Canucks' pick in 2015.
“I'm going to Anaheim to win a championship. That's going to be my sole goal,” Kesler said on a conference call.
“Last year, that season was tough on all the players that play for the Canucks, and me no differently. I hate losing and that season was painful, to be honest. The fact that they're in a rebuild and are looking to get younger and are years away from being a contender, I think it was just time for me to move on and, you know, win and hopefully take home a championship.”
Kesler, who turns 30 in August, is coming off a 25-goal, 43-point season. The product of Livonia, Mich., spent the past 10 campaigns with the Canucks but asked for move and, armed with a no-trade clause, reportedly was only willing to go to the Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks.
In Anaheim, Kesler will serve as a second-line centre behind Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf.
“I'd say that Ryan Getzlaf is probably one of the best centres in the game,” Kesler said. “I'm going to come in behind him and do my job.”
For the Canucks, the Kesler trade marks the first big move since Trevor Linden was hired as president and Jim Benning as general manager.
Benning, well aware of the impact the lengthy saga with goalie Roberto Luongo in limbo had on the Canucks, said he wanted to close the deal out as soon as possible.
“I didn't want this to fester,” Benning said. “We thought if we could get the deal done before the draft, the asset value was higher because draft picks for this year would be included in the deal.”
Benning wouldn't divulge whether there was impetus for Kesler to ask out other than the team's rebuild.
“He just felt like he needed a fresh start. Quite frankly, we don't want somebody that doesn't want to be here. We're going to acquire high quality people that are going to come in here and want to work hard for one another,” Benning said. “We would have liked to keep him, but his mind was made up so we did the best with the situation.”
Bonino, 26, is coming off a career year having collected 22 goals and 49 points in 77 regular-season games. He was also the hero in Game 6 of Anaheim's first-round series against the Dallas Stars, scoring the overtime winner to send the Ducks through to the next round.
“Wow. Want to thank everyone in the Ducks organization for all they've done for me, always will appreciate the team who gave me my start,” Bonino wrote on Twitter.
“Now, want to say how excited I am to start fresh in Vancouver, for a great team in a great city. Very much looking forward to it. Can't wait”
Sbisa, 24, was limited to just 30 regular-season games in 2013-14 due to injury. He had one goal and five assists.
The Canucks weren't finished there.
They flipped the No. 85 pick — acquired from Anaheim in the Kesler deal — to the New York Rangers for 27-year-old right winger Derek Dorsett, and traded 29-year-old defenceman Jason Garrison, the rights to left winger Jeff Costello and a seventh- round pick in 2015 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the 50th selection this weekend.